Hogan vs. Warrior, Austin vs. Michaels, Luger vs. Yokozuna, Bret vs. Michaels, nothing, *nothing*, was topping Hulk Hogan's challenge of his paranoid former friend, WWE Champion Macho Man Randy Savage, up until well into the Attitude Era. 'Mania 5's financial success was firmly tied to the anticipated showdown between the separated Mega Powers. Windfall aside, Hogan vs. Savage remains one of the most memorable feuds in WWE history.
The latter half of 1980s WWE saw Hogan and Savage cross paths on numerous occasions, sometimes as growling spit-brothers, other times as mortal enemies. When they were The Mega Powers, no twosome, threesome, or foursome could stand up to their collective might. The only thing that could stop the two was deep-rooted psychosis on the part of the reigning champion.
This is the story of the Mega Powers: how they came to be, and how their eventual downfall became the hottest ticket in professional wrestling.
10. The Mania Meets The Madness
Previously, Savage had been a frequent challenger for Hogan's WWE Championship. The two bitterly fought over the gold, with Savage unable to wrest the belt from Hogan's clutches, save for a few countout and disqualification wins. By mid-1987, Savage (whose 14-month reign as Intercontinental Champion had since ended) began veering toward the babyface side of the fence. Fans unanimously cheered Savage in his bid to regain the gold from by-then-champion Honky Tonky Man.
In a title match on the 3 October 1987 edition of Saturday Night's Main Event, Macho Man had Honky beaten, when The Hart Foundation ran interference during the critical pinfall attempt. The trio of heels were setting up Savage for a strike from Honky's guitar when Miss Elizabeth tried to stop it. In an incredible moment, Honky threw her to the canvas. She retreated to the locker room as Savage was crowned with the instrument, but the tide would soon turn.
Elizabeth emerged with WWE Champion Hogan, who cleared the ring of the Honky and the Harts. A grateful Savage extended his hand to Hogan, which Hogan accepted, burying the hatchet. Later that night, Savage coined the "Mega Powers" name, bringing Hulkamania and Macho Madness together as a swift force.
9. Hulk's Loss Becomes Macho's Gain
A record 33 million viewers tuned into the Main Event on Friday night, 5 February 1988, to witness the unthinkable: Hulk Hogan's four-year reign as WWE Champion fell by the wayside at the hands of Andre the Giant, Ted DiBiase, a bought-off impostor referee (*ahem*), and the sort of conspiracy you'd read about in a complex political thriller. Andre abdicated the belt to DiBiase per the master plan, but the handover was ruled invalid, and WWE President Jack Tunney declared the belt vacant.
A 14-man tournament was staged for WrestleMania IV in Atlantic City. After Hogan and Andre essentially knocked each other out of the quarterfinals, DiBiase looked to have an uncluttered path toward winning the gold "legitimately". He would face an exhausted Savage in the final round. Hogan arrived halfway through the bout in order to neutralize Andre's interference, and would ultimately make the difference.
When the referee admonished Andre for trying to prevent Savage from using the ropes to escape the Million Dollar Dream, Hogan snuck in and whacked DiBiase with the steel chair. One flying elbow smash later, and Savage was the new WWE Champion, with buddy Hogan handing him the gold.
8. The Marquee Reads Macho
On 21 April 1988, Hogan defeated Bolsheviks member Boris Zhukov at a Superstars TV taping. It would mark his last appearance with the company until mid-July, and his last match with the promotion until 31 July. In those three months off, Hogan would welcome daughter Brooke into the world, and would be busy filming the magnum opus No Holds Barred.
In that time, champion Savage, along with Miss Elizabeth, took the spotlight as the company's top act. In that time, Savage became much more acquainted with DiBiase, defending the WWE Championship against him throughout the touring loops. Notable bouts between the two during that stretch included a steel cage match in Madison Square Garden, as well as a middle-of-the-show title match before 26,000 fans in Milwaukee at WrestleFest '88. Hogan's return bout, a steel cage match against Andre, went on last.
7. A Sideways Glance
The rivalry between The Mega Powers and The Mega Bucks (DiBiase and Andre's counter-name) would come to a head at the first-ever SummerSlam. Hogan and Savage eked out a victory with the aid of a rather clever distraction - Elizabeth climbed to the apron and removing her skirt, giving a (mostly tasteful) eyeful to a flummoxed Mega Bucks tandem (as well as guest referee Jesse Ventura). From there, the Mega Powers ran the table, and Hogan pinned DiBiase following the big Leg Drop.
But not at all was perfect in the Mega Powers camp. In the post-match celebration, Hogan jubilantly spun around with Elizabeth in his arms, in what could very well have been an innocent embrace between two good friends. Savage stepped down off the turnbuckle to witness Hogan holding his smiling significant other aloft, and shot a somewhat-disbelieving glare Hogan's way. Nothing ugly would materialize in that moment, nor did commentators Gorilla Monsoon and Superstar Billy Graham acknowledge Savage's wide-eyed scowl. The two resumed posing to end the show, while a rather subtle seed of distrust was planted.
6. A Change In Tone
The ending of Survivor Series 1988 would feature similar imagery. After Savage and Hogan survived the night's final 10-man elimination bout, Macho Man was initially too exhausted and beaten to celebrate with the fresher Hulk. Hogan once more picked Elizabeth up in an ostensibly-well-meaning gesture of shared joy, only for Savage to once more turn and see Hogan with his arm around the love of his life. This time, Savage wasn't so quick to join in the festivities - Liz stood between both men and raised their arms, but Savage distrustingly eyeballed Hogan the entire time. When Savage pointed an accusatory finger Hogan's way, Hogan seemed oblivious.
Savage's uneasiness toward Hogan was spelled out a bit more explicitly on 7 January 1989 edition of Saturday Night's Main Event. When Hogan battled Akeem, Savage watched from the dressing room as Big Boss Man got involved, helping Akeem double-team Hogan. When Mean Gene Okerlund suggested that Savage should go help his distressed partner, Savage calmly rasped that he was confident Hogan could handle it. Elizabeth (Hogan's only corner person) ran backstage to plead with Savage to help, only for Randy to repeat his relaxed assertion.
It was only when Liz returned to ringside and Boss Man went to accost her that Savage got involved. Additionally, Savage showed obvious annoyance with Elizabeth tending to the wounded Hogan.
5. Rift At The Rumble
Both Hogan and Savage were participants in the 1989 Royal Rumble match the following week (this was before the winner received a World title match, hence champion Savage's participation). Savage entered the match at number 15, while Hogan followed minutes later at 18. The two would eliminate almost half of the field by themselves, with Savage throwing out three, while Hogan sent a staggering 10 wrestlers out - including Savage. When Bad News Brown had Savage teetering on the brink of elimination, Hogan ran over and tossed Brown, causing Savage to go along for the ride.
Irate, Savage charged back into the ring and shoved Hogan from behind. The two argued, almost coming to blows when Elizabeth ran down to the ring and got between them. Ultimately, cooler heads prevailed and the two shook hands, but it was clear that tensions were still running high.
4. The Mega Powers Explode
The breaking point would come on 3 February 1989, the night of the second annual live Main Event special on NBC. Hogan and Savage were matched up with Boss Man and Akeem, and trouble struck early - Elizabeth happened to be in the path of an oncoming Macho Man, as Savage was flung through the ropes, knocking her down hard. A worried Hogan went to tend to his allies and, realizing that Elizabeth was in worse shape, he carried her back to the locker room for medical attention, leaving Savage alone.
Savage fought the two on one odds while Hogan stood at Elizabeth's side in the first-aid room. When she came to and assured Hulk that she was fine, Hogan ran back to the ring, where Savage was on rubber legs trying to hold off the Twin Towers' onslaught. Hogan extended his hand for the tag, which a battered Savage obliged - before smacking Hogan across the face. Savage then deserted Hogan (World title belt in tow) and went looking for Elizabeth. Through his bewilderment, Hogan still managed to finish off the Towers, before running backstage to find Savage.
Hogan found Savage angrily berating a pained Elizabeth in regards to his frustration with Hulk's actions, and the two began loudly arguing. Savage cut one hell of a promo on Hogan, accusing him of lusting after Elizabeth, and not being man enough to challenge him for the belt face-to-face. When Hogan turned to Elizabeth to ask for help in calming him down, Savage blasted Hogan with the belt, and assaulted him on the floor with a series of punches. Elizabeth tried to intervene, but Savage violently flung across the room by her arm. Brutus Beefcake and a host of officials would prevent Savage from smashing Hogan with the belt once more, while Hogan could only groan in agony over the turn of events.
3. Stuck In The Middle
The severed friendship of Hogan and Savage meant that Elizabeth would inevitably have to pick a side. On the one hand, she had been close with Macho for their respective four-year tenures in WWE, and was with him for his two triumphant championship victories. On the other, she reciprocated Hogan's friendliness and what seemed to be genuine care. Three weeks before WrestleMania V, for which Savage accepted Hogan's challenge for a title match, Elizabeth would announce whose corner she would be in for the event.
It was on the 11 March 1989 edition of Saturday Night's Main Event that Elizabeth made her choice. She initially told Mean Gene that she would not be in Hogan's corner, prompting a euphoric celebration from Savage. That was when she made it clear that she wouldn't be in his corner either, and would instead stand in a neutral corner. Naturally, this answer didn't sit well with Savage.
2. The Madness Vs. The Mania
The big day had arrived, WrestleMania V in Atlantic City (the same place that one year earlier, Hogan was proud to hand the championship belt over to Savage upon his tournament win). As promised, Miss Elizabeth stood at ringside, not showing any particular allegiance. For much of the early portion of the match, Savage seemed to take control, and Hogan's moments of turning the tide would be, at least early on, fleeting.
Savage managed to bust Hogan open near the eye, but that momentary victory wouldn't last as Hogan slammed Savage over the top rope and to the outside. There, Liz understandably went to check on her man, only for Savage to angrily rebuke her genuine concern. On the floor, Hogan hoisted Savage over his shoulder with the intent of running his skull into the ring post, only for an emotionally-wracked Elizabeth to stand in the way. Savage used the free distraction to drop down and post Hogan's face. At this point, referee Earl Hebner ejected Elizabeth from ringside.
Savage took complete control of the match from there, dropping knees and Axe Handles on the battered challenger, while also subtly choking him with athletic tape. Finally, Savage drops the big elbow, but it's not enough. Hogan launched into the Superman comeback, finishing Savage off with the routine flurry and the leg drop, capturing his second WWE Championship. All Savage can do after he comes to is curse Hogan from the floor, ruing the result.
1. The Aftermath
Hogan and Savage continued to battle for the WWE Championship on the house show circuit well into the fall of 1989, before Hogan began focusing on singles matches with Bad News Brown, while Savage's attention went to Hacksaw Jim Duggan over ownership of the crown jewels that Duggan had previously won from Haku. Matches between Hogan and Savage from Madison Square Garden, Boston Garden, and the London Arena would be televised in those regions. Their last WWE singles bout of relevance took place in February 1990 on The Main Event, as Hogan defeated Savage in a match where boxing Heavyweight Champion Buster Douglas acted as guest enforcer.
The Hogan/Savage feud would also stretch into SummerSlam 1989, albeit in tag team form. Savage replaced Elizabeth with Sensational Sherri, and aligned himself with Hogan's No Holds Barred co-star, the menacing Zeus. Together, they targeted Hogan, who would be aided by Brutus "The Barber" Beefcake. In a surprise, Hogan and Beefcake would be seconded by Miss Elizabeth for the match, in which Hogan would pin Zeus. Four months later, the two teams faced off in a special steel cage match filmed for a No Holds Barred movie/match combo pay per view that aired Christmas week 1989. Hogan pinned Zeus to win that battle as well.
Save for special appearances like that at SummerSlam (as well as larger market house shows), Miss Elizabeth quietly exited the WWE scene. Other than those occasional showings in which she usually cornered against Savage (mostly to neutralize Sherri), she wouldn't play a prominent role again until her and Savage's famed reunion at WrestleMania VII, in one of wrestling's premier tearjerker moments.